Costco also said Wednesday that its November revenue climbed nearly 9 percent to $8.15 billion. Revenue from stores open at least a year rose 6 percent. That increase would have totaled 5 percent excluding gains from gasoline price inflation and stronger foreign currencies. Sales were strongest in Texas, the Midwest and the southeastern U.S., as well as Canada and Mexico, the company said on a conference call. Customers snapped up candy, cooler and deli items and Costco said hardware, health and beauty and women's apparel categories also performed well.
Several Costco warehouses were closed during part of the month due to power outages stemming from Superstorm Sandy. The company estimated on the call that the storm trimmed 0.5 percent from sales of stores open at least a year. Revenue from stores open at least a year is a key gauge of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.
Investors have paid a maximum 15 percent on dividends since 2003. But that historically low rate is set to expire in January. Dividends will be taxed as ordinary income in 2013, the same as wages, so rates will go up depending on which income bracket a taxpayer is in. For the highest earners, the dividend rate would jump to 43.4 percent. Even if a political compromise is reached, there's no guarantee that the tax rate for dividends will remain at its current level.
Fitch Ratings said Wednesday it has lowered Costco's issuer default rating one notch to "A+" from "AA-" because the company plans to take on more debt to pay the special dividend. Analyst Philip M. Zahn said "A+" is still considered an above-average, investment-grade rating.
Costco runs 618 warehouses in several countries, including 447 in the United States and Puerto Rico.